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Ex-NASCAR Driver Hermie Sadler Puts the Skids on Virginia Skill Game Ban

Posted on: December 7, 2021, 03:23h. 

Last updated on: December 27, 2021, 01:29h.

Former NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler has won a temporary injunction from a Virginia court blocking the enforcement of the state’s skill game ban.

Hermie Sadler during his NASCAR days. Now 52, the former racing driver says he is determined to defend his constitutional rights as a small business owner in the face of Virginia’s skill game ban. (Image: Getty)

Sadler sued to challenge the ban in June, arguing it was “unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable.”

He says the ban unfairly punished small, local businesses at a time when Virginia legalized and licensed casino gaming and sports betting, largely for the benefit of big out-of-state gaming companies.

On Monday, a judge in Greensville Circuit Court put the ban on ice pending the resolution of the lawsuit. A trial is scheduled for May.

Legal Shades of Gray

Skill games have the look and feel of slot machines, but they employ certain skill elements. This usually involves the player having to make an “optimal decision” by identifying their own winning payline.

Players can also be presented with a bonus game where they must memorize and repeat a sequence of flashing colors, similar to “Simon,” the electronic children’s game popular in the 1980s. The slot-like machines have been present in convenience stores and truck stops in Virginia for two decades. But they have occupied a gray area of the law. Hence, they are sometimes referred to as “gray machines.”

Sadler owns several truck stops and restaurants in and around his hometown of Emporia in Southern Virginia. According to court documents, the ex-racing driver expects to lose $750,000 in annual net revenues because of the ban. He says he has no problem with casino gaming in Virginia. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of small businesses, he said.

Sadler Calls Ban Unconstitutional 

A bill that would have legalized, taxed, and regulated skill games was rejected by the industry because of a punitive 35 percent tax, and it was voted down by the General Assembly.

In 2020, the legislature voted to ban the machines outright. But Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam asked lawmakers to hold off for a year. He devised a plan to tax and regulate the machines for 12 months only, to help shore up finances for struggling businesses during the pandemic.

But that would be it, Northam said. The ban took effect this July.

Sadler said in an October statement that he would not give in to “government interference and overreach” until his “constitutional rights, and the rights of other small business owners like me, are restored by the Court.” 

On Monday, he told reporters he just wanted to be treated fairly.

“Tonight’s ruling gives us a feeling that we’re going to get that,” he added. Then he said he was heading back to Emporia to switch on his gaming machines.

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